9, Focus Features, 2009
By Amelia Blevins
Set in an unnamed dystopia, 9 is made up of all the usual suspects found in post-apocalypse thrillers, except for one unique addition: animate rag dolls known as “stitchpunks.” The film opens with the awakening of 9 (Elijah Wood), the last in a series of nine stitchpunks created by a genius scientist whose invention of an artificially intelligent brain led to the destruction of the nation after extended warfare against intelligent machines.
While 9 is based off of Shane Acker’s Oscar-nominated short film of the same name, the feature film loses all of the uniquely haunting subtlety and mystery of the original, and instead follows in the same post-apocalyptic vein as The Matrix or Fall Out 3, complete with animalistic machines, barren industrial wastelands and the need to save the day.
The protagonist 9, after coming into contact with fellow stitchpunks 1 through 8, hopes to find answers to the mystery of the end of the world and the mysterious beasts set on killing them. In the spirit of reprising his role as Frodo Baggins, Elijah Wood’s earnest sincerity as 9, while well acted, only emphasizes the cliché adventure plot that even producer Tim Burton’s input did little to reinvent.
On the other hand, the animation is exceptional and the detailed steampunk-esque, Victorian sci-fi designs for both the stitchpunks and the anthropomorphist machines, whose use of candles and hot-air balloons in combination with artificial intelligence give the film’s environment an other-worldly ambiance.
Overall, a lack of originality and ingenuity keep this film from truly shining, even if it the animation is excellent.